Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"It looks as if Scorsese is battling his own demons, oblivious of the pain he inflicts upon an unsuspecting audience"

Religious persecution is the bedrock of faith. If you die for your belief, you become a martyr and martyrs are revered. Christians are beheaded in the courtyard or crucified upon a rocky beach to be drowned by the incoming tide or hung up like pigs and bled to death.

In this age of barbarous fundamentalist assassinations what can be learnt from the courage of those who give their lives for a God that remains forever silent? Is denial a betrayal? Or self-preservation?

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Writer/director Martin Scorsese goes back to Japan in the 17th century to tell a story of two young Portuguese priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to the land of the rising sun against the advice of their higher authority to discover what has happened to their teacher and mentor, the charismatic Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

The experience is as devastating as the film is long (two-and-three-quarter hours). The Japanese agenda is to undermine the influence of the missionaries, not by killing them - too easy - but by persuading them to denounce their faith by murdering converts in full view of the captured priests with the promise that all this will end if they step on a ceramic image of Jesus Christ.

The Portuguese, many of the peasants and most of the Japanese speak English. One of the priests dives into the ocean and gives an impressive demonstration of the crawl, hardly credible in 1641.

This cinematic shorthand affects the credibility of the film which suffers worse from its snail pace and depiction of suffering on an epic scale. Are there messages here? Is life more precious than an unseen, unheard deity?

It looks as if Scorsese is battling his own demons, oblivious of the pain he inflicts upon an unsuspecting audience.

Reviewed on: 20 Dec 2016
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In the 17th century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor.
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Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese, based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds, Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ogata, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Kaoru Endô, Diego Calderon, Rafael Kading, Matthew Blake, Benoit Masse, Tetsuya Igawa

Year: 2016

Runtime: 161 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico, Taiwan, US


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